Surviving Thanksgiving — With Science

We’ve passed through the gate of Halloween and entered the zone of the Winter holidays! This can mean lots of celebration food, and associated weight gain. So let’s talk about that.

One way to avoid some of the usual holiday weight is to avoid eating “holiday meals” other than on the official day. In other words, don’t eat big celebratory meals at restaurants before the holiday, and send the most indulgent leftovers home with your guests. Also, make sure at least one of the nibble plates / appetizers that you provide for guests is a raw vegetable platter with fat-free dressing for dipping. That way, even if Aunt Ida brings her famous baked brie, you can still fill up on vegetables.

If you’ll be traveling during the holiday rush, pack healthy snacks like fall-fresh apples and low-fat string cheese so you don’t arrive famished, or succumb to fast-food en route.

If you’re looking for new recipe ideas, limit your searching to recipe sites that provide nutrition facts for each recipe, so you can choose healthier options. Using colorful ingredients and attractive garnishes makes foods more interesting — we eat first with our eyes.

And when the meal is over, try to encourage a post-meal stroll, or high-energy game like charades to fit some activity into the day.

What everyone else is eating on Thanksgiving.

There are significant regional differences, from macaroni to salad. As far as what you should be eating, try to fill your plate first with green vegetables, then some protein, and go easy on the carbs.
fivethirtyeight.com/features/heres-what-your-part-of-america-eats-on-thanksgiving/

Some strategies for celebrating in a post-election environment.

Since stress can make us overeat (www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/how-stress-can-make-us-overeat), and it can also slightly reduce metabolism (news.osu.edu/weighty-issue-stress-and-high-fat-meals-combine-to-slow-metabolism-in-women/) let’s consider how to reduce stress during family gatherings. Try to focus on happy life events and avoid hot-button topics. Use the time together as an opportunity to renew ties and learn more about what matters in the other guests’ lives. Be prepared to guide the conversation away from uncomfortable themes.

But if you can’t avoid difficult topics, we’ve summarized some relevant news items that may be helpful:

How to survive Thanksgiving political discussions

Focus more on listening without judgement and less on talking (or preparing your rebuttal mid-listen). Do not expect you will change any minds or make any ideology-shifting points. Plan ahead some empathetic, tension-diffusing strategies. And avoid any statements that involve the word “you”, or that presume to know the motivation behind an action.
www.wsj.com/how-to-have-thanksgiving-dinner-without-a-family-blowup

Try to make it an opportunity to learn and understand opposing points of view. Keep your body language open (don’t cross your arms or turn away). Avoid eye-rolling and words like “stupid”. And find points of common agreement, such as over-arching goals to better the country.
www.nytimes.com/2016/11/17/health/how-to-argue-fairly-and-without-rancor-hello-thanksgiving.html

Our Changing Thanksgiving Traditions

Vintage Thanksgiving Card

Vintage Thanksgiving Card

From the History Dept., it turns out turkey was not eaten at the first Thanksgivings, and we used to send Thanksgiving greeting cards.
www.npr.org/the-peculiar-parade-of-thanksgiving-traditions
Children and adults would wear elaborate costumes and masks, and beg for pennies or candy, or march in parades. It was called “Ragamuffin Day”
www.npr.org/masking-memories-thanksgiving-in-disguise
Today, we watch TV and go shopping, and of course, we eat. Focus more on the family and the fun, and less on the food, to maintain your balance this year. 😉

Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!